147. Emirates Road II

Whatever road you choose, always wear your seatbelt...

Whatever road you choose, always wear your seatbelt…

Last year I compared Emirates Road to communism. Both, I said, worked perfectly in theory. No, really. Emirates Road is a 14-lane wonder highway designed to deal with all kinds of vehicles from Kia Rios to articulated leviathans. All the vehicles of the rainbow can travel side by side in perfect harmony. Communism works in the same way; everyone is equal and receives the same treatment as their neighbours. What a picturesque ideology.

Of course, the reality of communism is very different. Firstly, everyone can’t be equal; there must always be a leader. Secondly, it breeds horrific poverty and lots of people are killed. In practice it just doesn’t work; despite what those lot wearing Thatcher masks at Trafalgar square would have you believe. Emirates Road, too, doesn’t work in real life. It’s all very lovely having seven lanes on each side, but if those lanes aren’t used correctly then it all goes askew and the police spend hours picking bits of Toyota Yaris out of Eddie Stobart. It is an undesirable gauntlet.

I suggested last year that we heed the call of Ronald Reagan and tear it all down. Well, in January the UAE did the next best thing and re-branded it. Emirates Road is no more; allow me to introduce Sheikh Mohammed Road. Yes, I know that that is the 246th road of that name, but I am reliably informed that the name change will usher in a new regime of change. The proverbial wall has been torn down.

No longer will Leyland DAF’s perilously swerve lanes without any indication or warning. Goods lorries with missing wheels and un-serviced brakes will no longer be allowed to jack-knife and roll over. Water trucks built during the Battle of Hastings that leak their entire load will be outlawed. In addition to this, each lane will have a fixed speed limit; the outside lane will be set at 120 kph, the next one in will be 100, then 90, then 80, then 70, then 60 and then finally on the inside lane – for the trucks – will be set at 50kph. Your salary will dictate what lane you can use, so the harder you work (or the more cunning the criminal you are) the faster you are allowed to go. Anyone caught doing the wrong speed in the wrong lane will be arrested and fed to the kraken.

But, naturally, no matter how much legislation you enforce or how many rules you make, you cannot stop the human condition. There are still those of a Toyota Hilux disposition that have an unquenchable thirst for mayhem and carnage and they cannot be forgotten. They liked the idea of lane-speed equality and my guess is that they won’t take too kindly to this new, capitalist regime. The UAE has given this a great deal of thought and as such have renamed the Dubai by-pass road as “Emirates Road.” It can only go well. In case you aren’t aware, the Dubai by-pass road is a road that by-passes Dubai, it mirrors the road formerly known as Emirates Road exactly, by running parallel some 8km further inland. I foresee no confusion…

It is a great metaphor for the UAE, which even after having lived here for five years, I cannot decide whether it is a capitalist or communist state. It seems that you are free to make as much money as you like, but at the same time everything is owned and run by the government and they decide who gets what. It seems that there is no difference between nationalised and privatised enterprise.

People are to be given a choice between left and right. All of those who do not fancy driving in class-structured harmony alongside each other on Sheikh Mohammed Road will be asked to transfer themselves onto the new Emirates Road. This new Emirates Road will be a bit like the old USSR. People will be allowed to do whatever the hell they like to survive despite the tag-line of “fairness”. One litre Yaris’ will be able to speed along in the fast lane in-between all the Ladas and oxen. If they crash, they have no one to blame but themselves. Lorries will be able to use whatever lane they like with however many missing wheels they like, too. Hilux’s can swerve elegantly from lane to lane like massive mechanical butterflies. Everyone will be on the same level.

So there we are: you want to get from one end of Dubai to the other, you have two choices. You can either opt for the free-market Sheikh Mohammed Road with its rules of structure. The elite will be able to use their fast, expensive cars in the outside lane, the middle classes can cruise safely in the middle, and the working classes can trundle along next to the truck lane at 60kph, to save fuel. If this doesn’t take your fancy and you have a particular penchant for coal mines, Arthur Scargill and certain death, then you are free to use the far-left new Emirates Road. It sounds like fun, everyone being on the same level and all, but tell me which road you would rather use to get from Sharjah to Motor City?

It certainly all works in theory…

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